Back in the spring of 1990, Johnnie Roberts was looking to celebrate a journalism award he had won. Roberts, who is black, headed to Barneys on 7th Ave. in New York City and picked out a $600 Hugo Boss suit. He met a tailor for alterations, left the store, and returned to pick up the suit two weeks later.
What happened next would find eerie parallels to the experiences of two black customers who alleged appalling racial discrimination at the luxury retailer this week -- some 23 years later.
Roberts recounted the scene in a 1996 column for Newsweek.:
With the bag in hand, I shopped for a shirt and tie. There in a locked case, like a piece of jewelry, was the Armani tie for me. The salesclerk handed it to me. I quickly handed it back, after seeing the $ 85 price tag, and headed for the exit. But a security guard met me as I approached the door. "Come with me," he said. I didn't realize he was addressing me, so I kept walking. "Come with me," he said again. "You stole a tie." Of course, I hadn't, and told him to ask the tie clerk. He refused. Suddenly it dawned on me: just as many African-American men have long suspected about ritzy retailers. Barney's had targeted me as a shoplifter because I'm black.
My accuser, meanwhile, called for backup, and soon the two guards forced me to a backroom. They frisked my new suit and, finding nothing, threw it to the floor. They searched me against my will and came up empty. Without a word of apology, they ordered me to get out.
The store manager refused to apologize. Roberts reached out to company executives who also refused to apologize. The Pressmans, the founding family of Barneys, told Roberts that he was the one who caused the clerk to make the mistake. Roberts began a boycott.
Barneys New York has since changed hands. In 1996, the ailing retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 2004, the Pressmans sold their remaining stake in the company. In 2007, ownership went over to Dubai-based private equity firm Istithmar, and in 2012 the hedge fund Perry Capital assumed majority ownership after a debt restructuring deal.
But it appears the racial profiling Roberts experienced at Barneys more than two decades ago continues. Two young black Barneys customers this week accused the chain of racially profiling them after they made expensive purchases.
Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old college student, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming that he was discriminated against after he bought a $359 Ferragamo belt at the store's Madison Ave. location. On Thursday, 21-year-old nursing student Kayla Phillips came forward, claiming that she, too, was stopped at the same store after purchasing a $2,500 Céline bag.
Barneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday after HuffPost unearthed Roberts's 1996 article, but Barneys chief executive Mark Lee promised change in a statement released on Thursday. Lee offered his "sincere regret and deepest apologies" and said the company plans to review its procedures in order to prevent this type of incident from happening again.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Trayon Christian bought a tie, rather than a belt.
Appeared in: 'The Simpsons' Globex only appeared in a single episode, but that was one memorable episode. The company owned by Hank Scorpio at first appears to be one of those "progressive" 1990s workplaces where the boss wears loafers and everyone is on "flexi-time," until it emerges the loafer-wearing boss is a James Bond-style supervillain hell-bent on destroying the world. All while offering his employees free back rubs over lunch.
Los Pollos Hermanos
Appeared in: 'Breaking Bad' (SPOILER ALERT) Los Pollos Hermanos was ostensibly a fried-chicken restaurant chain in the southwest U.S., but was in fact a cover for a multi-million-dollar drug distribution network. Operated by Gustavo Fring and owned by German conglomerate Madrigal Electromotive, the chain's image ended in ruins when Fring's underworld dealings were exposed.
Appeared in: 'Jurassic Park' InGen spared no expense building Jurassic Park, but the only profit from its enterprise was a lesson: Don't mess with nature. For unleashing a Tyrannosaurus rex on San Diego and other outrageous mishaps, InGen gets a place on our most evil corporations list.
Appeared in: 'Office Space' Not so much evil as bureaucratic, falsely friendly and infinitely annoying, Initech is going to need you to go ahead and come in to the office this weekend, and every weekend for the rest of your life. That is, until they hire some consultants to show you you're no longer needed. The scene in which the company burns down was cathartic for countless numbers of office workers.
Gekko & Co.
Appeared in: 'Wall Street' Gordon Gekko is best known for declaring "greed is good" in Oliver Stone's 'Wall Street,' and the fictional investor lived by his code. When he wasn't manipulating employees into illegally obtaining information for the purposes of insider trading, he was busy selling off viable companies for parts and causing mass layoffs. It all ended in a police sting operation and an eight-year prison sentence, but Gekko made enough of an impression to make the list.
Wolfram & Hart
Appeared in: 'Angel' To say that a law firm is "evil" isn't really saying much we didn't already know, but Wolfram & Hart is special: Its senior partners are three demons known as the Wolf, the Ram and the Heart. Its lawyers represented the worst of humanity and demonkind alike, but in the end Angel and his team were actually put in charge of the firm, with the show trying to answer the question: Can you actually change the establishment from the inside? Apparently not, since show concluded with Angel and friends avoiding being corrupted by standing their ground and sparking the apocalypse.
Appeared in: 'Spider-Man' franchise The company founded by Norman Osborn "typically deals with experimental science, military research and cross-species genetics," according to the Amazing Spider-Man Wiki. Among the company's transgressions: Building a giant space robot to kill Spider-Man; creating prosthetic limbs that turn you into a lizard; and inadvertently creating Electro, a human electrical capacitor.
Appeared in: 'Good Burger' Possibly the world's most evil fast food outlet, Mondo Burger poisons the competition's food and literally tries to seduce people into working for the company. When its nefarious schemes are uncovered, the company kidnaps the would-be whistleblowers and puts them in a mental hospital. Would you like a side of evil with your burger?
Charles Foster Kane's newspaper empire
Appeared in: 'Citizen Kane' At the height of his power, Charles Foster Kane controlled two newspaper syndicates and a radio network. The first newspaper he owned, the New York Inquirer, managed to start the Spanish-American War in 1898 with false, warmongering news reports. From then on, Kane leveraged his news empire for his personal and political benefit, until he finally died, alienated and alone, with the word "Rosebud" on his lips. "You provide the prose poems; I'll provide the war," goes Kane's infamous line from the movie. No comment here on well-known parallels between Kane's empire and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Hearst" target="_blank">a certain real-world newspaper publisher</a>.
Appeared in: 'Resident Evil' Like sci-fi movies, video games are full of evil corporations, and among the most notable is Umbrella Corporation, a massive conglomerate from the 'Resident Evil' universe that, on the surface, makes happy little cosmetics and food products, but is in fact a thoroughly evil producer of weaponized viruses that turn people into zombies. They maintain their empire through the use of a heavily-equipped paramilitary group that pretty much looks like an independent army, with its fleet of attack helicopters, cargo ships and planes.
Buy n' Large
Appeared in: 'Wall-E' Buy n' Large is every anti-corporate consumer advocate's worst dream: A company that eventually buys out all other companies and effectively rules the world, eventually polluting the planet so badly that the entire population of earth is forced into living in spaceships... built and operated by Buy n' Large.
Omni Consumer Products
Appeared in: 'Robocop' franchise Like many other corporations in dystopian sci-fi flicks, OCP is a company that makes everything, including entire cities and robotic cops. The company privatizes the entire city of Detroit, renaming it "Delta City" and ruling it with an indiscriminate iron fist. Given Detroit's recent bankruptcy, that part doesn't even seem far-fetched at the moment.
Appeared in: 'Austin Powers' franchise Virtucon CEO Number Two had just built the company into a legitimate multi-billion-dollar corporation when its founder, Dr. Evil, was revived from cryogenic freezing and retook the company as part of his plan for world domination (or whatever it was). Its annual sales are estimated at... one million dollars!
The Tyrell Corporation
Appeared in: 'Blade Runner' Tyrell Corp. could be said to be more controversial than downright evil, but it crossed a major moral line when it started producing cyborgs ("replicants") identical to humans who don't know they're machines. "More human than a human" is Tyrell's motto.
Appeared in: 'Superman' Lexcorp is Lex Luthor's giant holding company, which he uses to carry out his nefarious, often real estate-related schemes. According to Wikipedia, Lexcorp "has become one of the world's largest, most diversified multinational corporations. Under the astute -- some would say, ruthless -- management of its founder, Lex Luthor, LexCorp grew and prospered, absorbing scores of smaller businesses."
Appeared in: <em>The Crying of Lot 49</em>, 'Buckaroo Banzai,' 'Star Trek' Yoyodyne, an aerospace defense giant, is remarkable for how many different works of fiction it has appeared in. The company first appears in Thomas Pynchon's 1960s novels <em>V.</em> and <em>The Crying of Lot 49</em>, before making an appearance in 1984's 'Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai,' where it was a front for an alien invasion of Earth. Some Trekkies swear the company built Starfleet's ships in the 'Star Trek' franchise, and the company is even a client of the previously mentioned law firm Wolfram & Hart on the TV series Angel.
Appeared in: 'Alien' franchise Known as Weiland in the original 'Alien' and Weiland-Yutani thereafter, this company keeps sacrificing employees in order to bring the alien to Earth. It's never been entirely clear how an uncontrollable, remorseless killing machine can be turned into a marketable military weapon, but as long as they keep making 'Alien' movies, Weiland-Yutani is sure to keep trying. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2007/12/10/largest-fictional-companies-oped-books-fict1507-cx_mn_de_1211company_slide_11.html" target="_blank">Forbes estimates</a> Weiland-Yutani's annual revenue at $59.4 billion. (They run an intergalactic shipping company, after all.)
Appeared in: 'Futurama' Mom's Friendly Robot Company has a monopoly on the robot industry in the 30th century, and the sole shareholder is Mom. Though her public image is warm and friendly, underneath she's a mean old bat with a unique way of using profanities ("Stuff a bastard in it, you crap!"). Her evil culminated with a plot in which she attempted to use the robots she built to take over planet Earth.
Appeared in: 'Soylent Green' (SPOILER ALERT) Soylent Corp. at first appeared to have solved the 21st century's massive overcrowding and food shortage problems with a new food product called Soylent Green, a green wafer billed as containing "high-energy plankton." But then it turns out Soylent Green is, you know, made of people.
Springfield Nuclear Power
Appeared in: 'The Simpsons' What can be said about a nuclear power plant that has Homer Simpson as its chief safety inspector? C. Montgomery Burns' operation has suffered countless meltdowns and near-meltdowns, and its waste disposal methods have left three-eyed fish in Springfield's waterways. The company's evil peaked in 1995, when Burns used a massive metal dish to block out the sun over Springfield, forcing everyone to consume more of the nuke plant's power. For his efforts, Burns got a bullet to the chest.
Scrooge & Marley
Appeared in: 'A Christmas Carol' Scrooge & Marley, a loan-shark operation in 19th-century London, was infamous for its policy of forcing employees to work on Christmas Day, so that the company wouldn't fall behind on its mortgage foreclosures. Seven years after partner Jacob Marley's death, owner Ebenezer Scrooge experienced a Christmas Eve revelation, convincing him to turn the company into a charitable organization. It went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
Appeared in: 'The Terminator' franchise Cyberdyne Systems built Skynet, the defense computer program that came to life and destroyed the human race, paving the way for the rise of the machines -- machines that were themselves designed by Cyberdyne, such as the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 cyborg pictured here.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: 18 Real-World CEOs Who Look Like Villains
Dr. Evil and Lloyd Blankfein
Dr. Evil from <em>Austin Powers</em>, played by Mike Meyers, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
Alistair Hennessey and Vikram Pandit
Alistair Hennessey from <em>The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou</em>, played by Jeff Goldblum, and former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.
Emperor Palpatine and Rupert Murdoch
Emperor Palpatine from <em>Star Wars</em>, played by Ian McDiarmid, and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Nurse Ratched and Meg Whitman
Nurse Ratched from <em>One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest</em>, played by Louise Fletcher, and Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman.
Ashley Schaeffer and Richard Branson
Ashley Schaeffer from HBO's <em>Eastbound and Down</em>, played by Will Ferrell, and Virgin CEO Richard Branson.
Lex Luther and Jeff Bezos
Lex Luthor from <em>Superman Returns</em>, played by Kevin Spacey, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Regina George and Marissa Mayer
Regina George from <em>Mean Girls</em>, played by Rachel McAdams, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
White Witch and Abigail Johnson
The White Witch from <em>The Chronicles of Narnia</em>, played by Tilda Swinton, and Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson.
Ty Moncrief and Mike Jeffries
Ty Moncrief from <em>Drop Zone</em>, played by Gary Busey, and Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries.
Emperor Commodus and Larry Page
Emperor Commodus from <em>Gladiator</em>, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and Google CEO Larry Page.
Goldfinger and Jeff Immelt
James Bond villain Goldfinger from <em>Goldfinger</em>, played by Gert Fröbe, and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
Daniel Plainview and Reed Hastings
Daniel Plainview from <em>There Will Be Blood</em>, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
Boris Badenov and Carlos Slim
Boris Badenov from <em>Rocky and Bulwinkle</em>, voiced by Paul Frees for much of the show's run, and Telmex CEO Carlos Slim.
Stuntman Mike and Brian Moynihan
Stuntman Mike from <em>Deathproof</em>, played by Kurt Russell, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan.
Count Rugen and Larry Ellison
Count Rugen from <em>The Princess Bride</em>, played by Christopher Guest, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
The Boss and Kenneth Chennault
The Boss from <em>Lucky Number Slevin</em>, played by Morgan Freeman, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chennault
Henry Evans and Mark Zuckerberg
Henry Evans from <em>The Good Son</em>, played by Macaulay Culkin, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The Donald and Donald Trump
Chairman of the Trump Organization Donald Trump and Donald Trump from <em>The Apprentice</em>.